It was instructive a couple of years ago on the Rollercoaster tour to see bands like My Bloody Valentine and the burgeoning Blur flounder in stagnant pools of noise, only for The Jesus and Mary Chain (right) to come on in biker jackets and deliver pure, hard blasts of energy, about as rock 'n' roll as an indie band is ever going to get. Simplicity has always been one of the band's driving forces, whether coated in layers of feedback or decked out more neatly in country strumming, as on Stoned and Dethroned.

It's fair to say that the band's fifth album proper, recorded at its own Drugstore studio, has received a bit of a mauling from some critics. Don't believe them. It's gorgeous. Pre-publicity had it marked out as an acoustic album, but it's as much Plugged-in as Unplugged, with electric guitar on all but one track. It's just that they've taken their feet off the overload pedals.

Underneath the lighter dynamics lurk the archetypal Mary Chain preoccupations: drugs and kisses, guns and lies, 'dirty little stories about needles and skin', as they put it in the shockingly New Order-ish 'Girlfriend'. Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval plays Nancy Sinatra to Jim's Lee Hazlewood on the Sixties-summery 'Sometimes Always', while Shane MacGowan, with his sad, broken drawl, plays a man at the end of his tether (surprise, surprise) on 'God Help Me'. The brothers have eschewed the fashionable un-compact habit of packing the plastic with what should have been out-takes: at 17 tracks in 49 minutes, there's nothing that wouldn't have made it on to vinyl. The songwriting is as good as anything since the feedback-soaked splendour of their first LP, Psychocandy. For me, perhaps nothing will ever match the purgatorial squeals of their first single, 'Upside Down', but this will do nicely.

(Photograph omitted)

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